The mission of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission is to identify, preserve, protect, and promote Raleigh’s historic resources.
Battery Heights Historic District
Developed from 1956-1964
A mid-20th-century subdivision developed for African Americans
Battery Heights is one of four mid-20th-century subdivisions in Raleigh built for African Americans during segregation. Located southeast of downtown and primarily developed between 1956 and 1964, it features a highly intact collection of post-World War II homes. Houses sit on landscaped lots ranging in size from ¼ to one acre and are set back from wide streets that follow a grid pattern.
The eleven-acre district’s prominent architectural style is Ranch, followed by a small number of Split Levels. While the designs vary, most of the Ranch-style homes are one-story with low-slung, horizontal massing, side or hip gable roofs, picture windows, recessed entries, patios, and carports or garage bays. The Split Level homes share many of the style’s typical traits—side gable or hip roofs with wide eaves, one-story wings intersecting the two-story wing, picture windows, recessed entries, and garages or carports—but also incorporate classical and contemporary elements.
While Battery Heights is a good example of residential subdivision development following World War II, it was originally platted in 1915. Named for the earthen batteries stationed in the area during the Civil War, the land belonged to Bartholomew Gatling, a former Raleigh postmaster and county attorney. Some development of the western lots occurred throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but by mid-century, much of the area remained forested, especially the southeast corner that today makes up the historic district.
During the 1950s, the Gatling family rented houses to African Americans along Gatling and Bart Streets. After Bartholomew Gatling passed away, much of the property was given to his son, Bartholomew Gatling, Jr., who sold several of the lots to his brother John in 1955. Shortly afterward, John Gatling was approached by George Exum, an early Battery Heights resident, to develop lots for African American professionals and their families.
Battery Heights residents included doctors, educators, builders, and government workers. Notably, Exum, a bricklayer and shop teacher, served as the general contractor for several of the homes. He obtained many of the architectural designs from plan books, including those published by Standard Homes, a national company whose Raleigh office opened in 1937 and is still in existence. Changes to the original designs were often made on site to satisfy the clients’ preferences.
Since its beginning, Battery Heights residents have remained active in their community. Les Pins, a neighborhood club founded in 1960, still holds twice-annual community dinners. Residents are proud of their neighborhood’s history and work to maintain the unique character of their community.